My name is Wilmar Granados and I was raised around the New York area but currently live in Fort Lee, New Jersey right across the George Washington Bridge. So being from that area I am very familiar with urban environments and city life, but Atlantic City is a different type of city as it is slowly deteriorating from within. I volunteered at the soup kitchen before out interviews and was already used to seeing poverty in NY but never to this scale. It was a big shock as I have never worked so hands on with a community so stricken with poverty and drugs that it really made me realize that there are people out there who just were dealt the wrong cards and have nothing are desperately trying to get out but they simply don’t have the resources to acquire the means. The most eye opening and humbling part of the soup kitchen experience is when I saw kids my age and younger there simply trying their best to get a free meal which may not always be the easiest thing to get in the community. Seeing kids younger than 10 running around having a good time was really heartbreaking because they still had that childhood innocence and were not aware enough to see what they have.
Melissa and I were partnered with a community member named Aaron and he explained to us what it means to be an Atlantic City Resident as best as he could. He was a phlebotomist at Quest Diagnostics, had an active role within the community with the local 54, as well as alongside the Black Lives Matter movement which he said has been doing really great things in the city. Aaron said that the city has had an overall low morale due to the constantly closing of casinos which is making the city more and more unemployed. “It’s a domino effect out here, people lose their jobs and have to find another way to pay the bills, that leads to gangbanging and selling drugs. Simply because they want to provide for their families” Aaron.
Aaron keeps in touch with his community by playing an active positive role on the streets, striving to be a good role model for his two children and with the help of social media; which has been a blessing in order to promote positive attitudes. Although Aaron believes he as an individual does not have much say with what goes on in Atlantic City and says it is primarily due to lack of community involvement . He does say that the major “players” within the community are, Don Guardian the mayor of Atlantic City and Reverend Williams one of the leaders of Asbury United Methodist Church and of course Donald Trump our president-elect who has had much power in Atlantic City .
“Drugs, Job Loss, and Affordable housing are Atlantic City’s biggest problems” said Aaron and he believes it is going to stay this way until the people as a whole begin to do something about it.
Although things currently look bleak in Atlantic City, Aaron and his family are optimistic about bringing out change that will help revive a the former “Baby Vegas” according to Aaron. He believes that marijuana reform will help the city the most by taxing it and keeping non-violent criminals out of the prison systems. Marijuana has already played a huge beneficial role in states that have legalized it already such as Colorado and Washington. This reform will open up dispensaries, providing jobs and medicine that ail the ill as well as keeping people who do not deserve to have their lives ruined over petty charges. Aaron believes that Atlantic City has already hit rock bottom, but once you’ve hit the ground the only other way to go is up. Working in Atlantic City has really opened my eyes to the real struggles that residents face daily, the harsh reality of a city who has failed them. But even with so much plaguing the residents you will always find the helpers like Aaron, and Rev. Williams who do not want to see their homes crumble and their people neglected. Community involvement is one of the biggest driving forced to help the city revamp itself and with help from Stockton and volunteers around the area, I truly believe that Atlantic City can be saved and brought back to the image that it once held.